Even as San Francisco works with Airbnb and other short-term rental services to extract the city's share of taxes, the city itself and local landlords are cracking down on laws that make it illegal rent out one's apartment.
Today's Chronicle story about local special education teacher Jeffrey Katz is not the first case of a landlord serving an eviction notice to an Airbnb host, but it is does paint a different side of the story. Unlike hosts and management companies that have begun building tiny rental empires in the cottage industry, Katz is not removing potential housing stock from the Market — a practice that has put local tenants' rights activists squarely in the anti-Airbnb corner. Instead, Katz is simply trying to make rent by hosting guests in his own living room. His eviction notice told him he was "illegally using the premises as a tourist or transient unit." It's a harsh truth that, by the letter of the law, short-term rentals are a crime in San Francisco.
According to the Planning Department, the city has seen a huge surge in complaints about short-term rentals since 2012 and 85 hosts are currently under investigation for renting out space. The problem has gotten so bad that hosts have started covering their tracks by listing their rentals at the wrong location and hiring people to pretend they are real tenants rather than quick guests. Airbnb, doesn't currently offer legal defense for hosts facing legal action for using their service, but make information about that the local laws available for anyone thinking of getting into the amateur bed-and-breakfast business.
Naturally, Airbnb wants to legalize and legitimize the service. Collecting hotel tax was the first step towards this, but board president David Chiu is still working on legislation (already two years in the making) that will amend city codes and legalize the practice. In the meantime, however, it is Airbnb's policy to simply tell anyone hit with an eviction notice to speak with a lawyer.